I’m not even sure what we did this summer. The time blurs together and we were mostly just two sticky, hot lounge lizards trying to avoid the heat. Massive heat waves washed over Europe killing 1,400, although the island was mostly spared from the truly intense heat. However this year’s apartment doesn’t have air conditioning. So we bought a fan and slept with the windows open at night, and in the day we closed the windows and shutters. The neighbors also kept their windows open, and when they watched TV (no joke, often until 4-5 in the morning) we got to hear it. Then a new club opened up down the street, so we got to hear drunken shouting often followed by police noises. It’s very possible the days blurred together because we were in a state of perpetual tiredness.
When we weren’t loafing around in front of our wee’ fan, the days were full of getting things done. We did some serious research as to what is next in life, and we took many harried trips to Palma to get government and visa paperwork done. Whew.
When we first arrived in Manacor in September 2018 there were only 3 apartments on the market.
- A dirty one that wasn’t even available until November (where were we supposed to live while we waited?)
- A nice apartment (albeit way above our budget) which needed 5 years of financial records and two letters of recommendation. Yikes.
- An apartment for sale for way above the market price. But the realtor and landlord were friends and the realtor convinced him to rent it out to us “while they waited to sell it.”
Really the only option was option 3. It was scary to live in an apartment that would be on the market constantly. The realtor assured us in private that it would never sell- it was so expensive. We’re not stupid, though, so we did a lot of research on Spanish laws… from McDonalds, since we didn’t have anywhere else to get internet. Ultimately we demanded a second contract from the realtor. If it got bought out and we were kicked out he would help us find a new apartment and we wouldn’t have to pay him the finders fee again. In our original housing contract we were also guaranteed no more than 1 showing a month and they had to let us know 24 hours in advance.
This ended up not happening (Spain, like Korea doesn’t really think contracts mean anything -so we’re used to it). We usually got 10 hours notice instead of 24 or two people would do a showing in a week. We were about to put our foot down and say something when they said it had been sold!
A super nice couple bought it on behalf of their semi-famous footballer son (he’s investing his footballer money) Our biggest concern – that someone would buy it and kick us out to live in it – didn’t happen, if anything they were pleased they didn’t have to look for a tenant. We re-signed the contract and nothing else changed.
Now that it’s not for sale we’ll finally post pictures because honestly we didn’t want anyone to see it and look into buying it.
Last year we could’ve gotten private lessons but Andalusia is so cheap to live in that we never seriously looked for them. This year living on a tourist island means we just can’t live the same lifestyle as last year. So we put up posters for private lessons around our schools. The papers kept getting taken, but nobody called us for a long time.
Online people said it would be difficult to get private lessons in Manacor. It’s the second largest city on the island, and has plenty of English academies. But when the summer vacation got closer, we got a flooded with tons of emails and text messages from interested people. But most of them flaked out on us.
Some nightmare mother said she was interested, and we got so far as to setting up times and dates etc. At the last second she started trying to talk our prices down (€15 for 1 students €25 for two students. Well below the €30-€60 going rate on the island). We said no. Since she didn’t get the mega discount she thought she deserved, she started insulting us as teachers and people which basically became a huge 15 minute argument in Spanish. This is the second time we’ve argued with someone in Spanish and it’s really not easy to argue in your second language. None of the books ever prepare you for that.
In the end I got a private lesson through Chris’s school and Chris got a private lesson through my school. So we got each other jobs by accident. Both of our students are highly motivated, just for different reasons. Either way we’re glad we don’t have small kids or teens who don’t want to be there. It’s also been interesting for me (K) to be around an older student again. I taught middle school for 3 years but now I’m with the younglings and I was a little nervous to have a big bad 16 year old in front of me at first. But like snakes and wild animals they’re as afraid of you as you are of them.
Last year we got into the only other fight we’ve ever gotten in in Spanish (with the foreigners office in Jaen).
To renew our visa we can either:
- fly back to the United States ($1,400)
- get medical checks ($300)
- get fingerprinted ($50)
- get a background check ($100)
- submit out the visa paperwork ($340)
- mail everything back and forth ($75)
- fly back to Spain ($1,400)
- find a new apartment and get settled again ($500)
Estimated costs of $4,165 or about $2,082 per person.
Or we can just get a “prorroga de estancia” extension of stay for a whopping €16. Of course we would also be paying rent, groceries and utilities here. But we wouldn’t have to put furniture in storage or risk my fingerprints being rejected (like they always are). And we wouldn’t have to look for a new apartment all over again.
The prorroga thing works great but makes NO sense. We get to stay without really proving why we’re staying. We have to do it basically twice for it to work. And then you bring a whole bunch of papers (including a photocopy of every page of your passport) to ANY government office and they will mail it to the correct people on your behalf. This is better than getting an appointment at the foreigners office (minimum 3 months wait) and then go through all the bureaucracy. I agree because I should be able to do paperwork in my city without commuting to the capital city. But it’s still a strange arrangement to just go “to any government office.” Think if you could just bring your taxes or divorce paperwork to the forest service.
So we did the “any office” route. Official government websites said we could go to 5 places in town, but didn’t really explain which 5. The Ayuntamiento (city hall) seemed like the most obvious place to start since that’s where you go to register marriages, births, deaths, divorces and register school and housing. So we walked 25 minutes in the deadly heat wave, presented our documents and said “this is weird but you’re supposed to mail this to Palma.” They barely looked then said ,”no”. Here we go again, we thought. Last year we fought with Jaen because they wouldn’t tell us where to go. If the federal government says your office should do something and you won’t do it, you need to at least tell me where I can go to get it done.
“Well where can we go?” we asked nearly through gritted teeth.
“Go to the XYZ office” she said suddenly more helpful, “down on Portugal avenue, do you know where that is?” We live on Portugal avenue. You’re saying we didn’t have to go all the way up here? We could’ve gone a block away from our house? We had to have a sweaty laugh about that. Our concern was the office she spoke of is the Department of Agriculture and Fish. The outside has nothing but maps of fishing areas, sea turtle protection, local mushrooms, and laws about the size of fish you can catch. Forgive me for not bringing my American passport and foreigner paperwork to the office of fish, noxious weeds, and deer. That just doesn’t make sense in my mind.
We didn’t believe her. So we went to the Oficina de Justia around the corner (another one on the list that should’ve done it). Better to try before we walked 20 more minutes in the 104+ degree heat. We went through a metal detector and stood around. There were gowns for judges hanging up and people talked quietly with lawyers. Not the right place but surely better than a fishing office? We waited in front of their help desk window for a while. They typed for a while, looked up, then kept typing. Finally they grew tired of ignoring us and with a mighty sigh asked what we wanted. We told them. “Nope.” They said. “Well where can we go?” “Ayuntamiento.” Um. We just came from there. They also said no. They shrugged in a Not our problem kind of way.
To the fish office it was! We stared at posters of mushrooms and protected types of sea grass while the woman stamped it and happily figured it out (without complaint!). The most difficult part of it was her trying to figure out which outbox to put it in. Hunting, fishing, licenses, boat registration? Hopefully it worked and isn’t being laughed at in some hunting office somewhere.
Finally to the beach!
This is an embarrassing secret that is finally ready to come out. We had lived on an island for 8 months but had never been swimming. We had also only gone to the beach 3 times. Mostly it was too cold but we also didn’t have a bathing suit for Chris. There aren’t Walmarts here with year round clothes available. If you need to buy a men’s swimsuit you can buy a skin tight racing suit or you can wait for the summer when they put the normal ones back on the rack.
So finally in June they put the regular swim trunks on sale and we finally FINALLY swam in the Mediterranean.
We packed a nice picnic and took a bus to a major tourist resort. We intended to hang out on the sand but it was packed. So we walked a little ways to a “cala”, aka an inlet. Calas have limited sand, so people find little nooks in the rocks to sit on. They’re not the most comfortable, but they are private, slightly shady, and allow easy access to the water. Possibly nicer than the beach, honestly. Like a little private deck.
It was unreal how clear the water was, like stereotypical Mediterranean clear. We saw a few fish and tried to dive to the bottom, but it was surprisingly deep.
We spent like three hours swimming, then drying off on the rocks and repeat.
The problem is that the rocks are lousy with sea urchins (fun fact: in Spanish erizo de mar aka sea hedgehog). We kept our tennis shoes on while we swam which was nice but this didn’t end up helping much when Chris essentially drop-kicked a jellyfish by accident. We scrambled out of the water and that was that for swimming.
It turned into a huge welt all over his shin, and month later it’s still red at times. My coteacher said we should’ve gone to the hospital but Americans and Europeans have wildly different ideas of what constitutes “hospital worthy”.
We ended up hiking home (jellyfish sting and all) which was also gorgeous – the hike, not the welt. For fun while we waited for the bus we got a “unicorn shake” from Burger King. They’re only sold in Spain and Portugal so we couldn’t pass it up. Colored glitter sprinkles and a swirl of blue and purple (blueberry) ice cream.
Finally on the last day of school we went with my school to have a huge paella lunch with everyone. For appetizers they served lengua (stewed tongue – actually super good) and calamari. We also had desserts and unlimited drinks for 20€ which was a great deal and was nice to see everyone before summer.
Going to Palma
You remember our stories of how much we hated Jaen last year. The whole city represented government paperwork and the city felt like visiting a giant DMV. This year we have had Palma. It has come to represent the same bureaucratic hell hole that Jaen did. We try to avoid going to Palma for tons of reasons: it’s a long journey; it’s ALWAYS crowded; everyone is in a rush to go somewhere; and of course we cannot stand the government offices.
But there are some neat things Palma has that Manacor does not. And even though we keep telling ourselves that one day we will go there just to be tourists and explore it just for fun, we never do. Instead we always take care of immigration business, then go grocery shopping at foreign grocery stores, clothes shopping, or go hang out in IKEA.
Then when we are done doing all these things, we either have no time to go visit touristy things, or we are too laden down with groceries. Sometime soon maybe!
What did we do for my birthday? I had a mighty nostalgic itch for the 90s. Probably because 90s fashion is really in right now so it’s hard to see people wearing the crappy unfashionable clothes I grew up with without getting nostalgic. I had a craving for cherry coke, lunchables, Nintendo 64 and a Scholastic book fair. The memories of playing ‘Girl Talk’ in a tent in the backyard eating gummy hamburgers and watching Mary Kate & Ashley’s Sleepover Party were too strong. It was time to stop denying the 90s.
I did up makeup like the 90s. Give me that dark lip-liner and frosty eyeshadow all the way up with hair clips and a zigzag part. I’m honestly not going to share those pictures with you because they were too 90s. They were too “fly” as it were. Jenna Marbles (a Youtuber) posted a 90s video days before which was mostly how my day looked/felt. We made friendship bracelets (incidentally super popular now). And drew some “temporary tattoos” of zigzags and floppy disks.
Cake? The 90s cup pattern on a funfetti cake! Probably a millennial’s favorite pattern (seen it on shirts and shoes). Food? Homemade approximations of your favorite frozen 90s food on dinosaur plates, because everything tastes better on dinosaur plates. Pizza bites, bagel bites, and chicken nuggets with szechuan sauce.
Gifts? Books! 2 Roald Dahl books in Spanish. And all the foods I haven’t had in 3 years (or in the case of French Toast Crunch, actually 20 years. Oh snap!). The soundtrack for the day was obviously Britney Spears, NSync and Backstreet Boys. We may or may not have pirated some old favorite Nickelodeon cartoons.
90 out of 90 would 90s again.